José A. Cabranes


José A. Cabranes : biography

December 22, 1940 –

Background and Education

Cabranes was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico into a family of educators; both his mother and father were school teachers. Both parents were educated in Puerto Rico’s public schools and at the then newly founded University of Puerto Rico in the first decades of the 20th century, part of the first generation of Puerto Ricans educated under the American flag after Spain’s transfer of the island to the United States following the Spanish-American War (1898).

José Cabranes graduated from Flushing High School in 1957 and earned a bachelor of arts degree in History from Columbia College in 1961. Between college and law school at Yale, he taught History of Puerto Rico and History of the United States at the Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola, in Rio Piedras, PR. He earned his law degree from Yale in 1965 and was awarded a Kellett Research Fellowship from Columbia College and the Humanitarian Trust Studentship in Public International Law from the Faculty Board of Law of the University of Cambridge to study international law at Queens’ College, University of Cambridge. In 1967, he earned his M.Litt. (Masters of Letters) in International Law, and returned to New York city to practice law. Columbia Trustee Biography

Notable rulings

The following decisions, among others, appear in the 2010 edition of the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary.Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, Vol. II (Aspen 2010).

United States v. Gatlin, 216 F.3d 207 (2d Cir. 2000): Cabranes, writing for the panel in a matter of first appellate impression, held that the district court was without congressionally authorized jurisdiction to try a civilian charged with committing a crime against an individual on a United States military installation abroad. Cabranes concluded that such crimes fell within a "jurisdictional gap" that was created 40 years ago when the Supreme Court ruled that civilians may not be tried in courts martial, and directed that a copy of the opinion be forwarded to members of Congress for their consideration. Following the panel’s decision, Congress enacted a statute remedying the jurisdictional gap.

In re United States (Coppa), 267 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 2001): Cabranes, writing for the panel and granting the government’s petition for mandamus, held that the district court misapplied the teachings of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and its progeny in holding that the government was required, as a matter of constitutional law, to disclose all impeachment evidence immediately, pursuant to defendants’ request for such, without regard to its materiality and far in advance of trial.

United States v. Thomas, 274 F.3d 655 (2d Cir. 2001) (en banc): Cabranes, writing for the unanimous en banc court, held that the teachings of the Supreme Court’s decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) compel the conclusion that drug type and quantity are elements of the offense under 21 U.S.C. §841 that must be charged in the indictment and submitted to the jury for its finding beyond a reasonable doubt.

United States v. Reyes, 283 F.3d 446 (2d Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 833 (2002): Cabranes, writing for the panel, provided an account of the United States Probation Office functions and held that a probation officer conducting a court-imposed home visit of a convicted person serving a term of federal supervised release is not subject to the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment or to the reasonable suspicion standard applicable to probation searches under United States v. Knight, 534 U.S. 112 (2001). Cabranes also concluded that, contrary to the so-called "stalking horse" theory, the law permits cooperation between probation officers and law enforcement personnel.

United States v. Quinones, 313 F.3d 49 (2d Cir. 2002), reh ‘g denied 317 F. 3d 86 (2d Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1051 (2003): Cabranes, writing for the panel, held that the district court erred by finding the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 unconstitutional. Cabranes held that, to the extent that the challenge against the statute relied upon the Eighth Amendment, it was foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976). With respect to the Due Process Clause, Cabranes held that it protected against government infringement upon rights that were so rooted in the traditions and conscience of the people as to be ranked as fundamental, but that the claim that there was a fundamental right to a continued opportunity for exoneration throughout the course of one’s natural life was not (as the district court had suggested) a novel issue, and indeed, was foreclosed by relevant Supreme Court precedents.